The strategy made perfect sense, since Blackmon burned TU for 174 receiving yards and three touchdowns in its meeting with OSU last season. And technically, the strategy worked, as the Golden Hurricane became the first team in 15 games to hold Blackmon to less than 100 yards receiving.
The problem for TU was that also allowed Josh Cooper and Tracy Moore to get open in the middle of the field. And let Hubert Anyiam to streak down the sideline to receive a 36-yard flea-flicker pass for a touchdown. And let nine other players besides Blackmon to record a catch.
“If you start rolling to Blackmon like Tulsa tried to do, that's what happens,” Weeden said. “We've got other guys that can make a ton of plays.”
Blackmon is still the unquestioned superstar of the receiving corps, but OSU has shown it has plenty of options in 2011.
Fifteen Cowboys have caught a pass so far this season. Thirteen of those players have multiple catches. All four starters—Blackmon, Cooper, Anyiam and Moore—have at least seven catches, 100 yards and one touchdown.
“We're so stacked at receiver,” Moore said. “It's hard to keep your position.”
It's a group that has come a long way in a little more than a year.
Before the 2010 season, there were questions if the Cowboys had enough receivers to run the spread offense. Dez Bryant and Keith Toston were gone, Anyiam was hurt and Blackmon had not had yet turned into the Biletnikoff winner.
Now, the Cowboys still have Blackmon. And Cooper, whose 68 catches in 2010 was the seventh-highest total in a season in OSU history. Anyiam is back healthy, and Moore is in the best shape of his career.
Add Michael Harrison and Isaiah Anderson on the outside and Josh Stewart and Colton Chelf on the inside, and the Cowboys have tons of depth.
It's a group that has confidence. And it's also a group that trusts the right person is going to get the ball, based on the defensive scheme the opponent is playing and the decision-making of Weeden.
“I don't think anybody's selfish on the team,” Moore said.
Said Weeden: “There aren't a ton of rules for our receivers—just finding grass and getting open. That's tough to teach. I think guys are just so confident now that they understand what they're doing.”
The wide receivers are not the only ones making an impact in the passing game.
Running back Joseph Randle is the Cowboys fourth-leading receiver (117 yards), while Jeremy Smith has three catches. And with Todd Monken's new wrinkles added to the offense, tight ends Justin Horton and Wilson Youman and fullbacks Kye Staley and David Paulsen have also caught at least one pass this season.
That makes it virtually impossible to focus on just stopping Blackmon.
Against TU, Monken started calling plays to isolate Cooper. On the Cowboys' first drive of the second half, he gained 27 yards on one catch. Three plays later, Weeden found Cooper again in the middle for 13 yards.
“You've got to set up the defense to play a certain way,” Monken said. “Every week is going to be a little bit different based on what they do.”
Said Cooper: “There are going to be certain games and certain defenses you play where you get your catches. And then another game, you're not going to have any (catches) or you're going to have one or two. Whatever the game plan is, it kind of works itself out.”
There's no doubting that Blackmon will remain the focal point of the Cowboys' receiving game. But he's far from the only weapon.
“Maybe the guy playing behind me could have 100 yards next game,” Moore said. “Nobody really knows going into the week. Up until last week, it was Justin guaranteed every week, and then whoever else after that. But now we see that everybody can do it.”